A marketing term that’s been making the rounds in publishing lately is platform. Many people claim writers ought to have one. Problem is, many writers don’t have a clue as to what a platform even is. So I thought I’d clarify that for any of you who are wondering…
One of the terms that platform is most easily confused with is branding, but the two are significantly different. Branding relates to the nature of your work itself, while the term platform is concerned with whether or not you have a "platform" from which to sell your work.
The term originated with non fiction and referred to whether or not the author had the appropriate credentials, degrees, and job experience to effectively be able to market their book. For example, a wedding consultant writing wedding planners, rather than just Suzy Q who loves weddings. Or a practicing psychologist writing a self-help book, rather than a lay person who'd been through a lot of psychotherapy. Their professional standing gave them the "platform" from which to sell their work. They could make the rounds on talk shows and radio as experts, and that expertise then in turn pointed people to their non fiction books. Also, they could then promote their books in their professional life, seminars, conferences, etc. Additionally, as the non fiction field became more and more crowded, a distinctly unique angle became a necessary part of that platform.
Eventually, it leaked over into fiction, but in fairly narrow instances. I would venture to say that the vast majority of fiction writers don’t have a platform. It only works in very specific situations; an ex green beret writing about secret ops or a practicing lawyer writing legal thrillers. That experience as a lawyer or green beret gives the author a certain perceived authority to write those books, and that “authority” status gives them a platform where they can use their credentials to promote their book.
Clear as mud, right? Well, the good news is, if you write fiction, you most likely don’t have to worry about it, so I officially give you permission to let it go…
And in other news, SVP is rapidly approaching our 15,000 visitor! Whooppee!! To celebrate, we’re having another contest. The first person to call it after the meter turns over to 15,000 will win a copy of the 2008 Golden Kite Fiction Award winner HOME OF THE BRAVE by Katherine Applegate-- a stunning read.
ps: An annoying side note - we've had to institute word verification for the comments in order to prevent the recent spate of spam. Sorry for the inconvenience!